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Yanks’ Hernandez, Family Reunited

October 23, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ New York Yankees pitcher Orlando ``El Duque″ Hernandez was reunited early today with the family he hasn’t seen since defecting from Cuba on a raft 10 months ago.

Hernandez’s mother, two daughters and ex-wife arrived at Teterboro Airport at 2:45 a.m. on the private jet of team owner George Steinbrenner. Hernandez and his mother wept and hugged each other as friends stood by with champagne.

The family arrived just in time for today’s parade in New York to commemorate the Yankees’ World Series victory over the San Diego Padres.

State Department officials and others said the family left the island with the Cuban government’s blessing. The family changed planes at Miami International Airport late Thursday.

``I am very happy that I will be able to see my dad. I have missed him,″ said Yahumara, 8, during the stop. She and 2-year-old Steffi both wore Yankees T-shirts.

``I’m very happy. I’m very proud of my son,″ Maria Julia Pedroso Cruz said. ``He hasn’t changed, in spite of the fact that he has all that money.″

Since her son left, she said, ``It has been very difficult for us, but we have survived the situation.″

Hernandez, who signed a four-year, $6.6 million contract with the Yankees in March, was banned from playing in Cuba for dealing with major league scouts.

He fled by climbing onto a rickety raft with his wife, Noris Bosch, and six others last December. They landed on a remote Bahamian island and were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Hernandez became a key member of the Yankees pitching staff, helping them to a 9-3 victory Sunday in the World Series, which New York won in four straight games.

Hernandez asked Cardinal John O’Connor for help in bringing his family in from Cuba, said Joe Zwilling, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

The cardinal sent a message to Cuban President Fidel Castro on behalf of the player. The Cuban ambassador to the United Nations called O’Connor late Wednesday and said the visit was a go, Zwilling said.

The cardinal called Steinbrenner during the first inning of Wednesday’s Game 4 to give him the news, and the owner arranged the plane ride.

Hernandez’s half-brother, Livan, also played baseball in Cuba and defected during a team trip to Mexico in 1995. He was the 1997 World Series most valuable player for the Florida Marlins and his mother was allowed to fly from Cuba to Miami to visit him just before Game 7.

Juan Iglesias, Livan Hernandez’s agent, said he didn’t know anything about the latest Hernandez family visit, only that ``El Duque″ was planning to fly to Miami after today’s parade to visit his brother.

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